Why I asked Tinubu about the fate of the church, should he become president —Archbishop Daniel
AArchbishop JohnPraise Daniel is the Presiding Archbishop of Dominion Chapel International Churches and the Presiding Prelate of the Forum of Pentecostal Bishops of Northern Nigeria and the National Vice President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN). In this interview with SEYI SOKOYA, he talks about national and church issues.
The upcoming election is gaining momentum, although some people, including Christian clerics, have said it is unlikely to take place. What is your opinion?
I am optimistic that the election will take place by God’s grace because we pray that God will clean up the country and bring peace. In the Northeast, in terms of security, things are not as bad as they were a few months ago. There’s a level of calm and sanity that comes back unlike what we had before.
Kidnappings, murders and banditry seem to have decreased. I think the military is on their toes; it is a very good omen. I have always said that the first duty of any government is the safety of life and property. Again, I believe in God that the election will take place. So let’s be prayerful. A new government will be sworn in and Nigeria will move forward.
We had a lot of problems with the outgoing government, but I believe that God will orchestrate a new beginning. Absolutely, I know a lot of Nigerians are scared, I have been to the Embassy several times to collect my passport and found massive crowds as people leave the country. God brought me to Philippians 4:6-7; you know in the elections in the previous administration there was a lot of fear that today but the elections came and with Buhari in the lead, according to the results a phone call was made by Goodluck Jonathan in Buhari, which brought peace.
Has God spoken to you specifically regarding the 2023 election?
I pointed out earlier that while I was praying, God took me to Philippians 4:6-7 and the phone call made to Buhari by Jonathan. Therefore, for the 2023 election, I have the belief in my heart that God will give us peace that is beyond human understanding, there might be violence in some areas but in the end, God’s will will prevail and God will give stability to this earth.
What we pray for is stability, peace and progress. I don’t know how it will turn out, but I have the assurance that God will give us a peace that surpasses all understanding in this nation. As I pray for God to keep and advance this nation, I continue to receive the assurance of peace in my heart. By the grace of God, we are going to have a peaceful transition.
Is it true that Nigeria is still in the start-up stage?
I’m very annoyed because I go to other countries, especially smaller countries, and see what’s going on there. Earlier this year, I was in Cotonou and Togo; from the airport, I said to God ‘Why can’t our leaders see what is happening even in these small countries?’ If you land at Lagos airport you will see grass around the runway, but if you go to Rwanda or Ghana you will see the layout of their airports. When you step onto the tarmac at our airports here in Nigeria, it is so disappointing. Part of my education is in transportation engineering, I specialized in road transport and tar construction. I have noticed that most of our airports are not built to standard. It bothers me that things are not done well in our country.
My prayer is for pragmatic and direct leadership that will care about people other than themselves. Additionally, we need leadership that will bring governance to the grassroots. Look at our roads, you can hardly travel by road to anywhere. I drove from Abuja to one of our churches in Nasarawa and was lamenting the condition of the road.
I believe this country can be better and that can only start with good leadership. By the time we start with the right leaders, I believe things will be settled in this country. I pray that God hears the cries of his people. Let’s also be optimistic that God will change things for good. I would also like to point out that having traveled to many places, I also think we have not done badly in terms of development looking at Abuja and Lagos, we have things to show.
So, we cannot totally say that we are behind in terms of some roads, buildings, constructions and other infrastructure. There was a time when I went to Kenya’s third largest city for a conference and we were with the president at the stadium. I looked and said even my local government stadium couldn’t be like that. A measure of developments are happening in the country and the fact that we haven’t done badly doesn’t mean we can’t do better. We can have better roads and other infrastructure put in place here in Nigeria.
Why do you think some Nigerian leaders travel to take advantage of good infrastructure in foreign countries and feel comfortable not replicating the same in their own country?
I think it has to do with leaders who are nonchalant. Sometimes I wonder why they are like that. Look what happened during COVID-19 where travel was restricted, I thought they would have learned and tried to put in place good medical facilities for people to avoid traveling and for our doctors to stay.
I tell you the truth, this country is the best; we have the best climate, the best set of people, rich in human resources and rich in mineral resources. I’m sure some countries are jealous of us, maybe that’s why they keep causing trouble so we don’t enjoy peace. It’s time for us to maximize what God has given us in this country and make sure we have the best standard of living instead of people leaving here for other countries.
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I pray that the presidential candidates start thinking in terms of representing the people and not going there on their own. I am happy that they were all at the head, Tinubu was governor, as well as Peter Obi, Atiku was also vice-president. They should not go there to incur debts for the nation or to transport the money that we do not have. They should see how this country can develop, move forward and get out of poverty.
According to the Debt Management Office (DMO), Nigeria’s domestic debt stands at 20.95 trillion naira in June 2022, while domestic debt service rose to 5.24 trillion naira in 30 month. How do you see this?
I don’t know the current figure, but I will advise that future generation should not be put at risk due to borrowing. We should think about how to generate resources instead of borrowing.
What do you think of the question of the strike of the Union of Academic Staff of Universities which lasted for months?
This was one of the things discussed at our last meeting of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) which was held on September 25th at the Continental Hotel in Lagos. We have pleaded with the government to do what is necessary to get our children back to school. It was important that the strike be called off and that the teachers return to work because the strike affected many things.
The APC party’s Muslim-Muslim ticket was called insensitive while some individuals, including Christians, said it didn’t matter. Also, you recently made headlines for meeting with the APC presidential candidate. What is your position on this?
The party that did it was not very sensitive to the feelings of the Christian body, especially those in the North. I come from the North and I know that the Christians of the North do not feel well there. Efforts were made initially even after the nomination of the vice-presidential candidate.
Concerning the meeting with the presidential candidate of the APC which raised a certain outcry, I was ordered not to grant an interview on this subject. However, by the grace of God, the Northern Nigeria Pentecostal Bishops Forum hosted Tinubu at a conference on September 22 at the Johnwood Hotel in Area 5 and not at the campaign office as many newspapers report. I said, ‘let’s hear it according to John 7:51; one does not judge a man without listening to him. Also to ask how the church under his administration will not suffer if he becomes president and he tried to answer a few questions.
We’re not happy with this callous decision, but it’s possible to make an informed decision on who to vote for. Vote according to your conscience and how God leads you. The same faith ticket decision has already been made, so the next one has a way to go. Moreover, this current administration has a Christian vice-president but that did not prevent the extent of the killings, especially in the North. In fact, when the president was away and made changes, the president on his return reversed the changes.
My humble advice is that we should not fold our arms but encourage candidates with strength of character to fight against corruption, the ability to govern, can bring about positive change and put an end to insecurity, embezzlement and other things that this country has been challenged with. The CAN gave the guidelines on what to look for when voting not only for the next president, but also for governorship and other electoral positions. I believe it is essential to heed the voting guidelines that CAN has given in order to move the nation forward.
Do you agree with the view that Nigeria is a failed state?
Not enough. Many things did not go well, but they can still happen. Nigeria is not a failed state, and we can do better to make it a better place.